Connectors for Audio

DIY—Audio Series

Being able to customise audio cable is vital for field recordists or techs in a studio environment. If you don’t like soldering or manipulating cables no worries, I am sure you quickly start getting hung up on it just as I did. Alternatively there is always the best buddy who can help out or a store around the corner where you can buy ready made cables.

XLR Connectors

XLR connectors are widely used as audio connectors and come with three pins. Five pin XLR connectors with more pins are only used for microphones that are in stereo.

It is important to distinguish the front and the back of the XLR connectors, but also here not to worry as connectors come with tiny but still visible labels in case we get confused.

 

3-pin XLR Connector

male XLR connector female XLR connector
male XLR female XLR

The wires are soldered to following pins:

pin 1 pin 2 pin 3
shield (ground) hot (+) cold (-)
mostly a bare wire mostly a red wire mostly a blue wire

 

5-pin XLR Connector

male XLR connector front male XLR connector rear
5-pin XLR male front
female XLR connector front female XLR connector rear
5-pin XLR female rear

The wires are soldered to following pins:

pin 1 pin 2 pin 3 pin 5 pin 5
shield (ground) cold L (-L) hot L (+L) cold R (-R) hot R (+R)

 

6.5mm Jack Connectors

6.5mm jack connectors (or TRS connectors) are also widely used in audio, but instead of connecting audio devices with each other, these connectors are rather used to connect instruments to audio equipment. Hence, also the use of the name ‘instrument cable’ among musicians.

6.5mm Jack connectors can be wired as balanced or unbalanced mono or as stereo connectors:

 

Unbalanced Mono Jack Balanced Mono Jack
and
Stereo Jack
mono jack stereo jack

 

Unbalanced Mono Jack Balanced Mono Jack Stereo Jack
Tip hot (+)
mostly red wire
hot (+)
mostly red wire
hot (+)
mostly red wire
left channel
Ring not connected cold (-)
mostly a blue wire
cold (-)
mostly a blue wire
right channel
Sleeve shield/ground shield/ground shield/ground

 

3.5mm jack connectors, aka minijack, are wired the same way as 6.5″ jack cables. Their use is for consumer outlets such as laptops, mp3 players or mobile phone audio outputs.

In a following post I will demonstrate how to easily connect one device with another, using your own self made cables.

In the meantime, why don’t you drop me a line if you have any special wishes for bespoke cable design which you want me to cover in one of the following posts?

 

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